Do I think an author should pay for a book review? No but I also think there’s a larger picture—or perhaps, a bigger question involved and it revolves around the odd (in my mind) delineations and lines drawn within the publishing industry.
With the paid reviews, this guy is a bad guy for charging for reviews, but Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus aren’t so bad for charging authors $500 for their reviews because PW & K are reputable…which works, as long as you don’t look too closely and realize that authors who pay for their reviews don’t get those reviews sent out on the usual traffic lines (that is, as far as I understand—and I could be wrong—but the free reviews get wider circulation)…it’s all vaguely reminiscent of Harlequin & the HH fiasco.
(I should also mention that in one comment on the articles, someone pointed out that while trad authors aren’t asked to pay for reviews, their publishers pay for advertising in magazines and thus, garner preference/goodwill when it comes time to review…it should also be noted that when it comes to books in stores, publishers (I’ve heard) will pay extra for certain shelf spots and whether the book is front facing). In other words, while trad authors aren’t paying for favor, it seems their publishers are doing it on their behalf—the highlist authors, I think. From the buzz at the water coolers, it seems the mid/low list folks are on their own, which is why many opted for indie-publishing).
The big question being asked by the bloggers and writing community with the pay for reviews is whether self-publishing will ever gain respect.
Shouldn’t the bigger question be whether an author is making choices in their career to bring themselves self-respect?
When e-publishing first came out, there was the same rhetoric: oh, these are authors who can’t make it the right (traditional) way. If they were really good, they’d have gotten a book contract. They’re just too lazy to pay the price.
It’s interesting to me to see how the fault with their lack of publishing rests on the author’s shoulders, with little to no accountability to 1) publishers who will pay 6-8 figures for an established author (which is grand, though it seems to me it leaves little money left over for the up and comers) (2) The rise of box stores which ate the little guys up by selling books at a loss (3) The changing technology which meant it was cheaper to print 100 000 copies of a book instead of 10 000, and so the question went from whether the author could sell 10k but 100k (4) The rise of books-to-movies which meant the marketing department was now the lead for acquisitions, not editors. (5) The bigger publishers buying out the smaller ones (6) The movie studios opening their own publishing branches to funnel the books at a cheaper price to themselves…the list could go on…
Why make it solely an author’s fault when they can’t break in to the industry? Trad publishers have to pay rent and office space. Face, it, it’s in their best interest to go with the established authors who sell in the millions, rather than take a chance with an unknown. I respect that. They’re doing what they need to do.
Shouldn’t authors be given the same freedom?
Fast forward 5 years or so, and you can’t find a traditional publisher who’s not into e-books. All of them have jumped on the band wagon. Now, it’s okay to be e-published and it’s okay to say it out loud. And now, there’s a huge jump in the number of e-publishers.
It’s the same with indie-publishing. Agents are now publishing books by their clients (and in some cases, original work, not backlist). What does that tell you?
Some of the agents & small e-publishers are using Smashwords, which is the same website that the independents use to publish.
So, if an author says, “Thanks very much X-agency or Y-e pub for offering to publish my work, but since you’ll use the same site as I would if I did it myself, I think I’ll just do it myself,” why are they suddenly “lazy” or “unwilling to pay the price”?
The idea that somehow agents and publishers know better and are gatekeepers is a fine idea…as long as none of us think about the books that are in the library that were traditionally published that we hate…or the books currently setting sales records that are badly written.
What I mean to say is that there will be good and bad books on all levels: indie, e-pub, traditional. If an author does what they feel is right for their career, shouldn’t we be happy for them, no matter what that action looks like?
At the end of the day, shouldn’t it be about writing and the joy we feel by putting words to paper?
The in-fighting between trad/epub/indie authors needs to stop. And no matter what category you fall into, I think there are some common sense rules:
1) Don’t pay for representation.
2) Don’t pay for reviews.
3) Read your contracts.
4) Don’t be so desperate for anything (book, agent, contract, review) that you’ll do it at any cost.
5) Respect the authors around you.
6) Respect yourself.
7) Respect your readers.
8) Recognize the industry is subjective and so it’s okay if your journey doesn’t look like your buddy’s journey.
9) The author’s career is a marathon, not a sprint. Train accordingly.
10) Do your homework, whether it’s how to right a book or who to sign with.